Instapun*** Archive Listing

Archive Listing
October 6, 2008 - September 29, 2008

Monday, October 06, 2008

Natural Born Winners

The True Romance of a Power Couple

HOLLYWOOD. With the world eagerly awaiting "W," Oliver Stone's movie treatment of George and Laura Bush et al, it's probably not too early to start anticipating a docudrama about our next First Couple. These things take time to plan, fund, and produce, you know. So we thought we'd help out with a few development suggestions for the movie we're pretty sure should be called "O."

There's no question that it should be another Oliver Stone production. He has a real talent for a creative approach to historical subjects. But it will have to differ in scope from "W," which is timed to coincide with the end of the Bush administration and the election of a replacement president. "O" needs to be released in October 2012 when Obama is seeking his second term, which means that it will have to be devoted less than half to the first term and more than half to the incredible story of how Barack and Michelle -- against all odds -- stormed the gates of power to achieve domain over their racist nation.

That's why we're proposing that the first act of the screenplay should be drawn from the book about Michelle excerpted today in the Washington Post, which contains the most detailed account yet of the incredible love story between Michelle and Barack.  That's also why we're convinced it's time for a reunion between Stone and Quentin Tarantino. Consider the following passage from the WAPO excerpt, which describes Michelle's ordeal at the first law firm she worked for after law school graduation. Unbelievably for such a talented social revolutionary, the firm plopped her into an assigment in its marketing department, where some of the brightest legal talent in the world was put to work fine-tuning advertising copy for corporate and public service organizations:

At big firms, much of the work that falls to young associates involves detail and tedium. There were all sorts of arcane but important rules about what could and could not be said or done in product advertisements, and in the marketing group, all the associates, not just the new ones, reviewed scripts for TV commercials to make sure they conformed. As far as associate work goes, it could have been worse — "Advertising is a little sexier than spending a full year reading depositions in an antitrust law suit or reviewing documents for a big merger," says White — but it was monotonous and relatively low-level.

Too monotonous for Michelle, who, White says, complained that the work he gave her was unsatisfactory. He says he gave her the Coors beer ads, which he considered one of the more glamorous assignments they had. Even then, he says, "she at one point went over my head and complained [to human resources] that I wasn't giving her enough interesting stuff, and the person came down to my office and said, 'Basically she's complaining that she's being treated like she's a second-year associate,' and we agreed that she was a second-year associate. I had eight or nine other associates, and I couldn't start treating one of them a lot better."

White says he talked to Michelle about her expectations, but the problem could not be resolved because the work was what it was. He is not sure any work he had would have satisfied her. "I couldn't give her something that would meet her sense of ambition to change the world."

Yes, it's a revolting and ludicrous misuse of world-saving vision, but rendering it dramatically is going to involve mostly a lot of talking. Only Quentin Tarantino has the chops to make all that talking a violent, bleeding edge kind of cinematic experience. What we're going to need is the crackling suspense of ten-to-fifteen minute stretches of unbroken dialogue that we can just feel are going to result in at least metaphorical acts of savagery against the stultifying status quo. We, the audience, have to feel in our bones the building power of Michelle and Barack coming together like Uma and John in Pulp Fiction for a breakthrough dance of self-actualization that will make the rest of the world tremble in terror and erotic surrender. You know. The Tarantino touch. Like when Uma cut off the top of Lucy Lius's head in Kill Bill. Not exactly like that, mind, since we're talking community organizing and political fundraising here, not Japanese samurai swords and mass murder, but something like, anyway. It's got to be world-changing even if nothing really happens for the first hour or so.

You can see that the casting will be critical. We know the picture up top suggests that the lead roles might be played by Whoopi Goldberg and Jaleel "Urkel" White, but this is the movies and it has to be much much better than that. We have some suggestions. There's only one good choice for the part of Michelle:

Vanessa Williams of "Ugly Betty" fame would rock as a kick-ass First Lady.

And forget Urkel. There's only one man with the cool and the ears to play Barack the Stud.

Come to think of it, a pair of diamond earrings would look good on the Pres.

During the pre-presidential romance part of the picture, casting of supporting roles is still important, but as long as we have the requisite corporate-looking types playing all the old white men who get in the Obamas' way, it doesn't much matter who plays who as long as some of them are played by Robert Duvall, Rip Torn, Brian Cox (1:14 in), and Donald Moffat (2:35 in). You know. The standard old evil capitalist pigs.

But the part of Jeremiah Wright is key. We have to be able to see that he is just so darn wacky no one would ever have taken him seriously except for all the devoted parishioners who made him a multi-millionaire. Which means, obviously, that it has to be Samuel L. Jackson.

You just gotta love his sense of pure mischief.

And maybe Bill Ayers should make a token appearance too, just to show everyone that nobody ever took him seriously, either, because he was more like a character out of Stakeout (4:30 in) than any kind of nasty radical terrorist threat.

Isn't he really kind of adorable and cute and harmless if not actually sweet?

That's not to say, though, that there aren't real villains. When the presidential campaign begins, in the second act, we meet the first true incarnations of pure evil. These are roles that will require a marquee actor.

Gene Hackman as Bill Clinton. And Gene Hackman as Hillary Clinton.

And then there's the super-villain of Act II. It's not even clear that John McCain is completely human. It's like he might be an evil cyborg or something.

God. Just look at him. You'd think he'd been tortured or something. Yuk.

Predictably, the scary old war dragon picks a rabid fox for his VP candidate (another Tarantino moment) and if it wasn't for Uncle Joe Biden's white guy gravitas, the whole revolution could have been sunk.

Happily, everybody in America thinks Bruce Dern is far sexier than Tina Fey.

All of which leads to the greatest new presidential administration in history. But victories bring sadness as well as joy to the manifestly enlightened ones. On their night of all nights -- in the movie anyway -- the Obamas will be sorrowful about the plight of the miserable Bush administration Oreos who failed to endorse them when they had the chance. (This is going to be a boffo scene, full of angst and pathos!)

George Clooney as Colin Powell and Stockard Channing as Condoleeza Rice.

The third act will be one of the greatest in all of filmic history, though. The Obama administration's brilliant new attorney general will put all the evil Republicans, including the Bushes, in prison for life.

Attorney General Eric Holder as played by Blair Underwood.

The new Treasury Secretary will also prove to be more like some gift from heaven than an ordinary bureaucrat. He'll heal the entire global economy with a bunch of new laws that will bury Adam Smith forever.

Treasury Secretary Franklin Raines as played by Morgan Freeman.

Best of all, the troops will be coming home from Iraq. Thanks to the miraculously effective offices of Secretary of Defense Cynthia McKinney.

Secretary of Defense McKinney as played by Halle Berry.

We're not saying the scriptwriting is going to be easy. We're just saying it can be done in plenty of time to usher in a great second term for the Obamessiah. Maybe some CGI would help.

Oh. Almost forgot. A picture of the liberal Pope who blessed this marriage and this divine right of rule.

Martin Sheen as Teddy Kennedy

There. That's better.

Look for it. Fall 2012 premiere. We can't wait.

Colonel Tigh Speaks...
Don't get the reference? Haven't you heard of Oliver Stone?

LATE IN THE DAY. I don't think he'd dare say it on national television, but he did let the truth slip in a local appearance. The geniuses running his campaign will probably have him back under control by tomorrow, but even a kid can dream. Eh?

Friday, October 03, 2008


The campaign is still in ICU, but at least it has a chance now.

TOLD YOU SHE WAS TOUGH. Joe Biden keeps telling that hoary old anecdote about how his mother told him to stand back up after getting knocked down, but last night it was Sarah Palin who actually did it.

Can you imagine yourself turning in that kind of performance after the gauntlet of abuse and humiliation she's been forced to run by the MSM and her own inept campaign handlers? I can't. Everybody else in the race had a couple dozen debates over a couple of years to refine their debate techniques and answers, She's had five weeks. But she made Biden look like a tired old inside-the-beltway bore when he was trying to be the point man for a brand new era of dramatic political change. Whatever debating points they both made and lost, nothing can change the fact that she was the breath of fresh air on that stage, a new kind of presidential politician -- a forward-looking optimist in a time of ubiquitous doomsayers and a plain spoken citizen politician in touch with the American heartland. She exuded energy, confidence and warmth. Joe Biden exuded botox and viagra, fitting symbols of the superficial nostrums of the past the Obama campaign has packaged as rejuvenating change. That's why she won. She is youth and change. Biden is old and living in the Carter Seventies, just like his boss.

The snobs in both parties can be as unimpressed as they want to be and nitpick her to their heart's content, but Sarah Palin has once again revivified a grassroots Republican base which had been growing steadily more disgusted and resigned to certain defeat in the past few weeks. Her act of resuscitation may not show up immediately in the polls, but it will show up in the amount of effort expended to get out the vote on election day.

What's desperately needed now is for John McCain to review the game film and come out swinging in his own next debate opportunity. He also needs to follow Ace's dictum to the letter. That's the only way he'll extract the campaign as a whole from intensive care.

But at least we're breathing again.


What's Really Happening
Talking back to the boss in his ear... a perfect metaphor?

THE BOOMER SUPREMACY. It now appears that the top Republican pundits are throwing in the towel. For example, there's this bit from Hotair:

Krauthammer, Barnes: McCain’s going down

A progress report on where the conservative universe stands within the Kubler-Ross paradigm. The grassroots? Locked until election day in stage one. The big A? Mired perpetually in stage four (stage three isn’t available to atheists). Krauthammer and Barnes? Snug in stage five, no longer fearing the reaper. Their reasons are different — CK thinks America needs a break from drama and FB thinks it’s the economy, stupid — but the upshot is the same...

Even Rush Limbaugh is waxing enthusiastic about his theory that this is 1976 all over again -- a decent but unexciting moderate Republican candidate caught in a maelstrom: (historically unpopular president) + (enormous national crisis) = (election of lightly qualified outsider Dem candidate with winning smile).

They might be right. Maybe John McCain is destined to lose. He's certainly acting, once again, as if he doesn't really want to win. But for all those of you who exult in historical parallels that excuse you from fighting the really tough battles at the eleventh hour, I have some news for you. This isn't 1976. And an Obama victory isn't going to be a salutary prelude to a new conservative ascendancy. If we lose this election, we aren't going to get a new Reagan in four years. Sorry, Fred, Charles, and Rush. We're going to be in deep, deep trouble. Here's why.

The 1976 election was a temper tantrum, pure and simple. In 1972, Nixon won one of the biggest landslides in history. The new anti-American liberalism of McGovern was soundly and utterly rejected by the voters. But the first of the Baby-Boomers to achieve real political power and influence -- the Woodward and Bernstein of legend -- set their caps to bring him down and did so. It was almost a fluke. If Nixon's native paranoia hadn't fed the beast of their desire, they would have failed. He was hardly the only president in the twentieth century to have cut legal corners to the bloody bone -- FDR, JFK, and LBJ spring easily to mind -- but as members of the Vietnam generation they wanted someone to pay the ultimate price for the inconvenience of their having lived their youths in the shadow of that war. It was Nixon, the moderate Republican, who was chosen as ritual sacrifice, and it was his humiliating destruction which set the gold standard for an entire generation's ideal of what "making a difference" as a journalist meant. Gerald Ford in 1976 was just collateral damage, a kind of piquant proof that the media could alter the course of history as it molded public opinion to its own agenda. Even then, he barely lost. Most of the political pros still suggest that if the election had occurred just one week later, Carter would have lost. The tantrum lost steam that fast.

But it's 2008 now. The tantrum long ago transmogrified into a generational mission. The Baby Boomers whose worst nightmare was the possibility of being asked to die for their country set about capturing all the power centers involving academic achievement and the shaping of public opinion via pseudo-scholarship, entertainment, propaganda, and ruthless manipulation. In this, they have succeeded spectacularly. The Baby Boom generation consists, roughly, of those who were born between 1945 and 1960.  They have been happy to give us all the impression that they're retiring now, leaving the scene. This is absolutely false. The median Boomer is now between 53 and 57 years of age, which is the absolute peak of career position in most large institutions. It's the age of CEOs and publishers and studio heads and law firm partners  and senior congressional leaders and full professors occupying endowed chairs.  Bill Clinton was merely precocious. The Age of Boomers has not passed. It is presently in its fullest flower.

Regardless of what you think or believe, it is the Baby Boomers who are in charge right now. They run the universities, the political parties, the congressional majority, the corporations, Wall Street, the entertainment industry, and in absolutely overwhelming numbers, the mainstream media.  They're also still obsessed with avenging themselves on a country that made them fear for their lives during the Vietnam War era. They learned their political skills in college as members of SDS and other Marxist-trained protest organizations. They are not only not afraid to lie but fully capable of justifying their lies in terms of their allegiance to a "greater good" which is usually synonymous with their own ideological fixations. They have brought up their only half-educated sons and daughters (the X- and Y-Generations) to believe exactly as they do, without the book learning but with bilious rage intact. Their fury and resentment signify a lifetime cause, and they will perpetuate it unto future generations with every fiber of their being. It's not a conspiracy. But it is a movement, a deep sea current of the spiritually lost. That's why they hate so much, so irrationally. Their lives have no meaning. They are forever the weak offspring of a greater generation they never honored in life and so must contemn in death.  Nihilism is the most consuming, the most ravaging of all diseases of the soul. (Behold Bill Maher, destroyer of that peace which he cannot have.) And the so-called Baby Boomer conservatives who shared their classes at university can't ever get far enough away from them to see them whole. That's why they still "like" Joe Biden, respect the "professionalism" of Gwen Ifill, and continue to lunch and dine with journalism colleagues who laugh at them every time they leave the room. Buckley never full comprehended the depth of the sickness. Why would they? (And some of them are infected, too...)

Obama is not a savior. He's a cartoon creation of the upside-down worldview of the Baby Boomer left to which so many well-meaning naifs continue to grant the benefit of the doubt, despite their unambiguous record of character assassination and indefensible lies. Look at the video above. Here's the new JFK, RFK, and Martin Luther King all rolled into one, a man who can't give a speech at a rodeo without a teleprompter and a man who, apparently, needs a live feed to his earhole to make "extemporaneous" remarks. His two -- count'em two -- autobiographies are pastiches of the works of Malcolm X, Eldridge Cleaver, and Ralph Ellison. He is an alien imitation of an artifice created by the Baby Boomer left.

He is their revenge on the rest of us, the ones who continue to believe in a country they can't think about without resentment and self-doubt. He is not even Jimmy Carter, who was at least a naval officer, a man who had discharged some real responsibilities as a nuclear engineer and a governor. As unbelievably awful as Carter was, this new trans-racial racist will be far worse. There may be no correcting the damage he will do.

Obama is a community organizer with a degree they know -- patronizingly, as befits their narcissism -- he might not have entirely earned but for their "idealism." He therefore belongs to them. Period. He is their creature. A cipher with sinister ties to some of the very worst Baby Boomer radicals and Baby Boomer black separatists. He is their Trojan Horse. With a scrolling script and a bug in his ear telling him what to say. What happens after he's elected they think they know but don't. What they haven't factored in is that he probably hates them, too. They've been so busy explaining away Jeremiah Wright they haven't given a moment's thought what it might mean to elect a president who really does hate the people who groomed him for power as much he hates his country. It could get very ugly very fast. Beginning with the moment he takes that bug out of his ear on Inauguration Day.

But he sure does look great in a suit. McCain doesn't. Too bad. I guess that means he loses. Unless he really is willing to fight for his country one more time. But I doubt that. He probably thinks he's done enough. How about you?

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Bailout Shelter

SOMETHING SOMETHING BORN. I don't want to sound pessimistic, but things are falling apart at an alarming rate right now. As we've noted previously, McCain refuses to place the blame for the financial crisis where it belongs. The highly visible club of snob conservatives have decided to publicly trash Sarah Palin with just a month to go before the election (while even Rush Limbaugh succumbs to a public brain fart, claiming he doesn't know who McCain is talking about when he mentions "so-called conservatives in the Georgetown cocktail set"). The Republican congressional leadership is twisting the arms of house members to commit political suicide by voting for a bailout package the Democrats could pass by themselves if they had any guts to back up their socialist principles. And Republicans generally can't even muster enough spine to be outraged about a PBS debate moderator with a clear financial incentive to help Obama win the election. As one of the few National Review editors who isn't more afraid of dissing Gwen Ifill than speaking truth to the powerless, Peter Kirsanow puts the matter fairly plainly (despite the requisite nod to Ifill's nonexistent professionalism):

The refrain from most of the GOP talking heads over the last twenty four hours concerning Gwen Ifill's role during the VP debate is that she's a fine journalist, who, now that the fact of her book is public knowledge, shouldn't be precluded from moderating the event. Heck, it may even work to Palin's advantage because Ifill will be under intense scrutiny to be fair and balanced.
This rationale points to the GOP's ( and, to some extent, conservatives') nearly wholesale capitulation to liberal media dominance and is one of the reasons the GOP base find themselves so frequently dispirited: no objection, no fight, no pushback to a howling conflict of interest....

I concur that Ifill's a professional. That's not the point. Republicans will find themselves losing  more and more often if they do not vigorously challenge these media travesties. And it's the right thing to do for the country. A  partisan, cheerleading press is not a hallmark of a free and democratic society.
So many times  we see Republicans act "gentlemanly" and turn the other cheek —to what end? It simply emboldens the media toward even greater bias. How does that serve the interests of the country? Democrat fingerprints are all over the current financial mess; Dodd and Frank were integral to the debacle, yet the GOP does nothing to counter the prevailing narrative that this is a  McCain—House Republican problem—and McCain's poll numbers plummet.
The conclusion of McCain's convention speech exhorting us to "fight, fight, fight" has been quickly forgotten. There's no honor in failing to challenge brazen media bias and distortion. It does the nation no good  when voters cast ballots based upon false or misleading information. Right now it looks as if the same politicians who engineered the Fannie Mae/ Freddie Mac train wreck are going to win in November. The most liberal candidate with the most radical associations of any presidential aspirant in history is poised to win because the media, with virtual GOP acquiescence, has portrayed that candidate as mainstream.

Has it occurred to anyone else that the word "bailout" applies to a lot more than the $700 billion package that's being rammed through the congress as we speak? It seems as if everyone is bailing out. The mass media have bailed completely on maintaining even the appearance of journalistic objectivity, almost contemptuously refusing to cover such obvious stories as Biden's gaffes, exaggerations, and conflicts of interest, Obama's disturbing associations with radicals and his flagrantly scandalous fundraising activities, and the destruction of the lending industry via Democrat-legislated affirmative action mandates in the mortgage market. McCain has bailed on his party and the congressional candidates who are depending on his good political judgment. The Republican congressional leadership has bailed on its principles and the election prospects of the entire conservative caucus. And even conservative pundits like George Will, Kathleen Parker, and others who have no real career stake in the election have bailed on the Republican ticket at the height of the most despicably vicious and biased media campaign coverage in our lifetimes.

So what do we do? Find or build a bailout shelter in which we can ride out the worst of the disintegration process. Maybe it won't consist of bricks and mortar. But it probably does involve staying away as much as possible from television, radio, newspapers, and the internet. At least for a while. Even sports has ceased to be a solace. Three or four tmes yesterday during  the Phillies-Brewers playoff game, I had to go channel-surfing to avoid Obama's inane ad claiming that he is capable of maintaining fiscal discipline while he socializes medicine, converts the power grid to windmills, and bails out every endangered home mortgage. Trying to watch an entertainment show or two last night, I was subjected to repeated promos for David Letterman's Top Ten list of his newest lame Sarah Palin jokes. This morning, attempting to flee the gotta-pass-the-bailout-and-is-Palin-really-stupid segments on Fox & Friends, I sought out the lunkhead sports talk of Mike & Mike on ESPN2 only to have them trumpet their upcoming interview with Obama.

I could bear the saturation media coverage if it weren't all so relentlessly one-sided. A few nights ago, I masochistically checked in on all the late night talk shows. It was a day of spectacular Biden gaffes, but every single one of them -- Leno, Letterman, O'Brien, Ferguson, et al -- were obsessed with continuing the unbroken hatchet job on Palin.

At the moment, that room in the graphic above is looking pretty good to me. Tonight I'll probably try to keep tabs on the playoff games, but only in glimpses. I'm not going anywhere near the rigged arena I'm assured 100 million Americans will be getting their jollies from. Maybe QVC will have a special about survivalist equipment. Lanterns, bedrolls, canned goods, waterproof playing cards, and smokeless space heaters seem enticing to me about now. Wind-up multi-band radios not so much. We'll see.

Maybe I'll feel better tomorrow. But there are times when it's easy to understand why Napoleon sat down on that log at Waterloo.

The Aggression-Appeasement Paradox

What Republicans can't seem to do.

TIME TO FIGHT BACK. I'm on record as opposing men's penchant for citing The Godfather as any kind of template for decision making or life. Now I'm making an exception. Because Democrats live by mafia rules. Worse, they exemplify all the lowest, most treacherous mafia behaviors. They are Fredo.

If there is an admirable aspect to the mafia life depicted in The Godfather trilogy, it is the sacredness of family. Merciless as they may be with rivals and enemies, they are forgiving with their own, even to the point of self-endangerment. Michael had abundant evidence that his brother Fredo was unreliable, weak, treacherous, and blindly selfish, yet he forgave or overlooked these potentially fatal faults for years. Why? Because Fredo was his brother.

In our political context, Michael would be the Republicans. He is intensely aware of all the threats to the family from outside. He is bold and aggressive when it comes to dealing with such external threats. Just as the Republicans have been a bulwark for generations against the Soviet menace, genocidal Arab intentions against our friend Israel (Hyman Roth?), and Islamic terrorism and its supporters. Yet in their domestic relations with Democrats, the Republicans have followed a perversely contrary path of appeasement at all costs.  Since the death of the Godfather (JFK?), they have overlooked treachery and even treason in the Democrats' determination to lose the Vietnam War and ensure the slaughter of our allies in Indochina, the cowardly Democrat insistence on placating -- sometimes exalting -- our mortal enemies in the communist states, and most recently, undermining and even sabotaging our wars against al qaeda in Iraq and Afghanistan. They haven't raised the alarm (or preferred legitimate charges) when individual Democrat legislators and candidates went overseas to conduct their own subversive and self-serving negotiations with enemy leaders in a time of war. They haven't even questioned the family loyalty (i.e., patriotism) of Democrat politicians who openly rooted for, and conspired to bring about, the military defeat of American troops in the field.

It's a paradox. The Fredo Democrats have been uniformly weak, whining, and spineless about any kind of threat from outside the U.S. Yet when it comes to politicking within the U.S. family, they are the most ruthless, unscrupulous killers anyone would want to imagine. There is literally nothing they won't stoop to, no standard of human decency they won't transgress, no oath they won't make and break at a moment's notice, no tactic so low that they won't embrace it in a heartbeat for a single day's winning headline in the news. They're willing to sacrifice U.S. standing and safety in the world by declaring unilateral defeat in Iraq to win the presidency, and they're willing to usher in a second Great Depression to maintain control of congress for one more term. They are Fredo. All that matters is what's in it for them. (Watch the clip above visualizing Chris Dodd in place of Fredo, making occasonal reference to Freddie Mac and Franklin Raines...)

The reason I'm willing to cite this odious movie is that the Democrats have obviously chosen it as their template. Which means that the Republicans will continue to lose until they can learn to be as unblinking as Michael about who is really a member of the family and who isn't. The paradox can only be resolved by understanding that aggression inside the family is also weakness, caused by the same fear and insecurity that leads to appeasement in foreign affairs.

Fredo is not a member of the Corleone family. The Democrats are not patriots. They are sick, selfish parasites. It's time for Republicans as a group to quit appeasing behaviors they know full well how to handle in foreign affairs and apply their worldly wisdom to matters closer to home.

It's not easy. It's even heartbreaking. But it's necessary.

Something to think about.

UPDATE. Gwen Ifill has been cleared of all conflict of interest charges. See here. So we apologize. Unless that Iowahawk fellow isn't serious. Which he seems to be.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Hold! Hold?

Those starfighters would be the mass media.

THE INVISIBLE CAMPAIGN. Like most of you, I suppose, I'm still waiting for John McCain to remember that he's a Republican and start pinning the blame for the financial meltdown where it belongs -- on the Democrats.

He ostentatiously failed to do it in the debate when Obama left himself wide open to such a counterattack on the very first question. He continues to say that it's not time to fix blame because it's time to fix the problem first.

Uh, is he too dumb to be president? I'm starting to wonder. The problem with the economy is Democrats who subverted free market principles so that a bunch of their deadbeat constituency could buy houses with no personal financial risk. Which means that the best long-term solution to our economic problems is to put the White House and congress in Republican hands. The short-term view that any bailout bill can restore our economy is folly if management of the bill's provisions will be controlled by President Obama and a Democrat congress.

I'm tempted to say that it's already too late for McCain and the Republicans to recover. But there's still a month left and polls in a time of crisis are exceptionally volatile. If the wizards behind McCain were to wake up now, remember that the mission is not some damn bill but the presidency and control of congress, they could undo most of the damage that's been done.

The communication agenda doesn't require a rocket scientist to figure out. Tie the financial crisis to the Democrats who opposed Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac reform. Tie Obama to Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and ACORN, the ultra-corrupt symbol of the racialization and destabilizaton of sound financial transactions. And hammer the message home with voters that the long-term health of the economy depends on getting the federal government out of the business of running business and using private resources as a treasure chest of bribes and favors for all the losers who keep Democrats in office.

In case they've overlooked this fact, voters do know that McCain is a Republican. No amount of self-destructive posturing can wish this state of affairs away. Almost half the electorate doesn't mind that he's a Republican. Neither would another eight to ten percent of the voting public if this self-proclaimed maverick warrior would just stand up and fight for the office he aspires to.

If he doesn't stand up and fight, he doesn't deserve to win. But that's an irrelevancy. What does matter is that we don't deserve an Obama presidency and the incalculable harm it would do to the American economic system, national security, and our way of life.

I'm begging McCain nd his genius advisers to quit self-obsessing and go to war on our behalf. It's long past time.

Pelosi's Greatest Hits

Graphic courtesy of

HOT NEW SINGLE. Presumably, all those feminists who hate Sarah Palin so much that they'd like to see her stripped and raped  in public are proud of Nancy Pelosi, the worst Speaker of the House in the history of the republic. Here's what she accomplished yesterday in her infinite stupidity.

Here’s the speech that probably killed the agreement. Pelosi blamed the collapse on George Bush and a lack of regulation, and called Republicans hypocrites for cheering free-market principles.

Yes, she's a nice looking older woman with great big breasts, which makes her one of the hottest search topics on the Internet. But should the feminists really approve of a woman who is probably setting back their sex's prospects in politics by a decade or more? Rest assured, there will be no female Speaker of the House for a long long time after Pelosi gets sent home to San Francisco by acclamation.

For those of you with short memories, here's our list of Nancy Pelosi's Greatest Hits.

Congressional Gothic

Pelosi Quits Congress

A Media Mystery.

Pelos Diplomaci

Pelosi Update: The best diplomacy is breast diplomacy

Serendiptity. (and update here).

The Speaker Broad

Peace in Our Time.

The Liberals We Love:  Nancy Pelosi.

Nancy Pelosi Speaks Out.

And don't forget our exclusive Pelosi Campaign Ad from the last election.

We wouldn't want you to forget what great judgment the Democrats have when it comes to choosing their leaders

Monday, September 29, 2008

Paul Newman: "I grow on people."

FINAL GAME. He did on me, anyway. His early movies and most of his famous ones left me kind of cold. Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, The Sting -- these will be celebrated a lot today, but all I can do is mention them, along with The Towering Inferno, as relics of Paul Newman the movie star. He was able to glide through movies on his looks and his undeniable presence, and I think he did that more often than fans would like to admit. The much ballyhooed "H" movies strike me that way, perhaps unreasonably, because I can't even keep Hud, Hondo, and Hombre from blurring together in my head (although The Hustler stands out as a terrific noir fable).

But there was one kind of part at which I believe he truly excelled, and I came to admire him eventually because he kept returning to the part of the flawed loser afflicted with a tenacity that won't him quit or, in the end, lie to himself. It seemed to me that when he played such roles he was drawing honestly on his own experience and that the self-deprecating humor he evinced in them was also authentic.

I don't know much of his biography. I know he was married to Joanne Woodward, who always seemed to me the kind of woman who proves that strong, wise, independent women flourished long before the first bra got burned. I know he must have had good qualities for her to put up with him for so long. I know he liked to drive racecars. And I know that he lost a son. Almost everything else I know about him, or think I do, is derived from four movies. If I read him right, I think he grew on himself over the years and reached a wise if prickly truce with the contradictory currents that run though every life: love, loss, faith, despair, hope, injustice, self-doubt, joy, sin, fairness, weariness, work, winning and losing, and acceptance of the sum.

I may be wrong, obviously, but I think anyone who watches the following movies will find all these themes moving restlessly through them in varying combinations and especially through the mind of the character played by Paul Newman. I think he was thinking about life for us on camera, not as a hero or sermonizing preacher but as a fellow human being, good and bad like all of us. If so, it's a kind of sharing that has to be driven by a funadamental kindness of heart, whatever other kinds of failings sometimes intercept the better impulses.

Cool Hand Luke (1967). Late sixties adolescents fastened onto this movie and Newman's repeated throwaway line, "Yeah...well...," which serves in lieu of a substantive explanation that (seems like it) might be available if anyone were interested. They admired his insouciance in a southern road-gang prison camp, which reminded them of everyday life as a teenager. Critics saw the character Luke as a Christ figure, sacrificing himself to leave behind a legend that could help subsequent generations of inmates survive their incarceration. I don't doubt the superficial symbolism is there, but to me the key point is that Luke isn't Christ but a self-conscious Everyman. Unlike Billy Budd and The Count of Monte Cristo, he is not an innocent. He's definitely guilty of the crime for which he's imprisoned, even if that crime doesn't seem to us to merit the punishment he receives. Like everyone else, Luke begins his journey in original sin. Yet he has an instinct for how to play the hand he's been dealt, and he follows it in the full knowledge that sometimes a losing hand loses. But he'd rather go all in than fold and forego all chance of winning. His antagonist is a pair of mirrored sunglasses. Which should give some hint about how well the movie avoids the pitfall of preachy, sentimental allegory. Newman isn't yet at the peak of his powers, but his soul is beginning to leak out of its handsome shell.

Slap Shot (1977). If Cool Hand Luke is some species of Christ figure, Newman's character in Slap Shot is a blue-collar variation on Faust. Only Newman's Reggie Dunlop is not a passive recipient of the devil's deal but a pro-active seeker of it. He''s willing to do anything to keep his minor league hockey team alive. And he does. Anything I mean, not keep it alive. The devil isn't interested in Dunlop's proffered deal or his down payments on his own soul. The movie is falling down funny in places, but Newman's character isn't. His life is broken in so many places that the mayhem he unleashes on the ice is a fairly direct depiction of what he's managed to effect in his marriage, his career, and every other aspect of his life. The hilarious Hanson Brothers are inspired stand-ins for the ancient Greek Furies, long-haired agents of destruction who are so unthinking that they can't themselves be blamed for what they do. They are forces of nature unleashed by the corrupt decision of a man who has consciously decided to do wrong in a desperate bargain to rig the rules of life. Newman is better here than he is in Cool Hand Luke. He exudes his own Mephistophelean charm, but he's also aware of the lines he is crossing and (sympathetically) mortified by the discovery of just how far afield his decisions have led him. Who among us hasn't screwed up big-time? Gone too far. Done things we're ashamed of and can't call back? There's no pink ribbon that can tie it all back together again. But we can learn to laugh at ourselves after the fact and hope we'll do better next time. No guarantees. Interesting character journey for a pop hit comedy, huh? And how many fans of this movie appreciate the implication that the bizarre Michael Onkean strip show which resolves the dramatic crisis represents a symbolic virgin sacrifice to call off the Furies? I'm thinking, not many.

The Verdict. (1982). In some respects it resembles Anatomy of a Murder (a better movie to be sure). There's the lawyer in over his head against ruthless, take-no-prisoners opposition. There's the old guy friend and legal fox whose counsel and research spadework might (or might not) save the day. There's the volunteer Girl Friday. And there's a distant, skeptical relationship to the clients, who are less important to the story than the life and well being of the attorney arguing their case. Of all the components of a good movie -- script, music, cinematography, editing, and acting -- the only one where The Verdict is competitive with Anatomy is acting, specifically in two roles. Jack Warden as the old friend and Paul Newman as the desperate attorney Frank Galvin are both superlative. I'm not derogating Jimmy Stewart and Arthur O'Connell here. Anatomy was a work of genius in miniature. The focus was a case. The script was a play. Its ambiguities were elegant and evocative. In The Verdict, however, the screenplay was taking a core sample of Frank Galvin's soul. The courtroom summation shown below is both a legal argument and an interior monologue, something Anatomy never asked of Stewart. But I ask you to compare it to what it would have been like if the "great" Al Pacino had been asked to deliver it. Newman never raises his voice. He is speaking to us and himself. He never appears to be flexing his acting muscles, chewing scenery, "going for the Oscar," or even massing his energy in an emotional bulge aimed at hitting the jury. This is acting as restraint. A withholding of the yelling and rhetoric. Its power lies in its quiet. I believed him in this role. He was growing on me.

Nobody's Fool (1994). My favorite. He was old when he made it. The trailer hints at its virtues but doesn't convey how good he is in the role. But the trailer was all I could find. This is the movie from which the headline of this post is quoted. It's worth seeing. So many times the tabloids and other media outlets ask actors what they would have done if they hadn't succeeded as actors. I believe Paul Newman was telling us his answer in this movie. He knew he was no saint. But he also knew that he had something to offer that transcended all the tradtional conventions of worth. If you liked him and his movies, do him the honor of seeing this last portrayal of a difficult, complicated man who nevertheless loved people and life.

Yeah, I know other stuff is going on. We'll get to it. Stay tuned. But step aside from Drudge for a moment and offer a nod to a man who seems to have been a man. A rarity worth acknowledging.

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